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Domestic violence survivor advocates for tougher change to state law

On May 28, the Osage Nation Counseling Center held its annual Men’s Pancake Breakfast event to encourage men to take a stand against domestic violence and to wear purple in support of the movement.

Dena Cosby, a domestic violence survivor, served as that morning’s guest speaker. A Rogers State University student, Cosby said she started researching the issue of domestic violence after speaking with an academic advisor who encouraged her to take a step back and look at it from the state level.

“Oklahoma is third in our Nation for domestic violence,” Cosby said. She also spoke of the August 2013 murder of the Ponca Tribe’s domestic violence program coordinator Janett Reyna who died after being stabbed by her boyfriend in front of her children. The murder occurred in Blackwell where Reyna previously worked as a police officer before working for the Ponca tribe.

The boyfriend being sought in the case, Luis Octavio Frias, remains at large with a first-degree murder warrant out for his arrest from the state Bureau of Investigation. His mother was arrested for obstruction in the investigation.

Cosby said Reyna’s murder hit close to her because she could’ve died that same year as well when she experienced domestic violence also in front of her children “and if it can happen to (Reyna), it can certainly happen to women who are not in that position.”

After 24-plus hours of research, Cosby said she developed a speech on the issue and she’s been invited to deliver remarks at the Oklahoma state capitol this fall. “I’m trying to get this in front of legislators so we can change things and I’m launching a campaign called ‘The Lavender Ribbon’ … because it’s specifically for children who have witnessed domestic violence because children are our ticket to changes in the state of Oklahoma.”

To the dozen men, which included ON police officer and ON government workers, attending that morning’s breakfast, Cosby said: “It’s certainly in the hands of men to help women to be able to change that.”

Cosby said Oklahoma’s laws dealing with domestic violence need to be tougher in an effort to prevent another incident similar to Reyna’s murder. Cosby said Reyna filed for divorce three days earlier and obtained a protective order against her boyfriend in Kay County District Court, but that did not prevent the attack leading to Reyna’s death.

Cosby said it’s estimated nearly 30 million children will be exposed to some type of family violence before the age of 17. “Domestic violence is a serious social problem and its affect on children may last on into their adulthood – these effects include behavioral, social, emotional and cognitive.”

In reaching out to Oklahoma law makers, Cosby said she is proposing state law issue tougher penalties to those who commit domestic violence acts in front of children.

Cosby said the current state law Title 21, Statute 644E states that “when a man beats a woman in front of her children he goes to the county jail for six months to a year and he is given up to $5,000 in fines. If he does it a second time in front of children then he goes to being in the custody of the Department of Corrections for 1-5 years and it goes up to $7,000 in fines.”

Cosby said her law change efforts are being made in honor of Reyna’s children so prison time is mandatory upon conviction. “I want it to say that when a man beats a woman in front of her children those are multiple victims … so whenever he beats a woman in front of children, I want to see the court system in Oklahoma say ‘let’s get him in those handcuffs and right to prison!’”

Cosby also acknowledged the Osage Nation Police Department for its officers’ help during her own situation.

ONCC Domestic Violence Program Administrator LaVina Clark commended Cosby for sharing her remarks and said another domestic violence awareness targeting men will be planned for this fall since October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The event is titled “Walk a Mile in her Shoes” and is described on the organization’s website as “a playful opportunity for men to raise awareness in their community about the serious causes, effects and remediation to men’s sexualized violence against women.”

For more information about the Nation’s Counseling Center and its services, contact the office at (918) 287-5422.